Luiz Felipe Scolari backs Guangzhou Evergrande players despite draw
Luiz Felipe Scolari backed his Guangzhou Evergrande players despite a pair of defensive lapses costing the two-time champions all three points in their Asian Champions League 2-2 draw with South Korea's Suwon Bluewings on Wednesday.
Alan Carvalho scored nine minutes from time to secure a point for the 2013 and 2015 winners after Guangzhou had conceded twice in the first 32 minutes from corners.
Santos Junior gave Suwon the lead with a header from Yeom Ki-hyun's corner before Ricardo Goulart's delightful dipping volley restored parity, only for another Yeom set piece to open Evergrande up again in the 32nd minute, with Johnathan putting Suwon back in front.
"We expected it to be difficult before the game, and indeed it was a tough match for us," said the Brazilian World Cup winner. "Their set pieces are very dangerous, so a draw is acceptable.
"I don't know if you have noticed that we haven't conceded any goals from set pieces for over six months, and Suwon are very, very good at them. It is normal that we made mistakes in that aspect. We will improve.
"I am not looking for excuses. Suwon were physically outstanding and very aggressive in one-on-one encounters. We couldn't underestimate them, and every team in the Asian Champions League is the best team from their country."
Carvalho's curling strike nine minutes from time earned Guangzhou a point and ensures Scolari's team are unbeaten in their first two games in the competition after kicking off their campaign with a 7-0 thrashing of Hong Kong's Eastern last week.
But the six-time Chinese Super League champions will have to start their defence of their domestic crown on Sunday against Beijing Guoan without the services of left back Li Xuepeng, who came off with a muscle problem during the game and is ruled out for two weeks.
That means Scolari will have to make his first change to his starting lineup this season after picking the same XI to begin each of the club's opening three games of the year.
"My starting XI are my best available choices," he said. "My starting XI are the best in training. I don't mind to emphasise one more time that today my players have done very well, we managed to draw against a strong opponent."
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch